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PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS FORUM IS TAKEN FROM PREVIOUS VERSION OF QUEEN SONGS SITE.
Path: Queen Songs - Forum - Song Analysis: Under Pressure writingBookmark and Share

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Sebastian: Under Pressure writing24 Sep 2003 13:11
after reading a 1984 interview that was avaliable only in French, and translated it, I discovered that 'Under Pressure' doesn't have that little participation from Brian and Freddie as we thought.

John is asked how did the collaboration arrive and he answered: "On the album, the track was credited to Bowie and Queen but in fact Freddie did the main part although all contributed. The bass line came from David, it took me a certain time to learn. But there was also a strong influence from Brian for the middle part. It was an interesting experience which me might do repeat if we have a chance with David and other people."

interesting, isn't it? I do believe more John's comment that David created the bassline, since it's from 1984 (Brian's and Roger's quotes that credit John for doing that are from 1998 and 2002)
1.PD 06 Oct 2003 23:05
If the intro motif is David Bowie's creation Queen fans soon or later have to stop using it as a demonstartion of John's capability to come up with killer bass riffs.
2.Sebastian 06 Oct 2003 23:25
in a similar way that some people in my city used to say Brian was the best guitarist ever and their argument was the Spanish solo of 'Innuendo'...

but I'm almost sure John's comment is true. Apparently he said something similar in a Japanese magazine in 1982. I'll try to find it and translate it

but still John does create great bass lines: Back Chat, Another One Bites
3.LG 19 Apr 2004 14:27
David Bowie: "The song was written from the ground up on the night I visited their studio. I believe the riff had already been written by Freddie and the others so then we jointly put together the different chord sections to make it a cohesive piece of music. Then Freddie and I came up with our individual top line melodies. So when you hear Freddie sing, that's what he wrote and when you hear me sing, that was mine. Then we worked on the lyrics together. I still cannot believe that we had the whole thing written and recorded in one evening flat. Quite a feat for what is actually a fairly complicated song."
4.Sebastian 19 Apr 2004 15:40
Thanks for the quotem it`s very interesting. Do you have the year to add it in my site?
5.PD 19 Apr 2004 17:08
Very interesting indeed! Thanks!
6.LG 20 Apr 2004 00:12
Sorry, I don't know the date.

Also found at www.davidbowie.com
Roger: "One night he turned up and we all started just piddling about, playing covers, and then I think we decided we'd write our own song. I think it was his idea actually. I didn't think it was a big enough hit. Actually I think it deserved to be a bigger one but I think that, you know, it was all a bit difficult. We had never actually collaborated actively with anybody before. So certain sort of egos were slightly bruised along the way. We never actually finished the record to my satisfaction. We finished it in New York, and it wasn't, technically, as good as it could have been. It could have been a lot better I think."
"He was VERY inspiring, I thought, and tremendous to work with. He was totally energetic. Whereas I would get tired, he wouldn't seem to get very tired. He would be very enthusiastic, and then he'd suddenly deflate like a balloon. But I still think it was a great song. An incredibly original and unusual song. It had no blueprint, you know. You couldn't say that came from something, cos it was a very unusual song, and still one of my favourites. I think the final section is one of the best things we ever did."
7.BrianMay 20 Apr 2004 15:24
Sebastian> the year of the quote from Bowie is 2004
8.Sebastian 20 Apr 2004 17:16
Yeah

Thanks
9.Sebastian 25 Jul 2004 17:59
This song - together with Show Must Go On and Innuendo - is probably the most collaborative one in terms of arrangements and productions, mainly because it had "crossing" input. I mean, it would be more or less "normal" in any band thay someone came with the chords and basic framework and from then on each person arranged his part. But in the case of UP there`s apparently input from everybody in the melody & lyrics, and from David in the bass, etc.

In that matter, the arrangement is very much a five (or even more) people piece. Still, the writing itself belongs to one person. Or maybe two. What I mean is that, for example, we can say x person created the bass riff, y created the piano lick, z created the guitar motif, a the melody, b the chord progression. In that case, imo, b is the songwriter, because the melody and the riffs/motifs/licks/hooks go over the scales/keys suggested in the chord progression. x,y,z and a are arrangers.

Still we can say that, for example, the riff came first and the chord progression was just what naturally supported it. Then it`d be a matter of who came up with the first riff. So it`s a difficult situation.

So, about some specific quotes:

> John (1982): "It was an interesting experience, because David wrote the bass-line, he owes the responsibility for it."

I think this statement is very believable considering it`s from just one year after the song was written. Moreover, perhaps Roger, Brian or Fred weren`t present when John learned the bass-line (in either case David or he wrote it), so perhaps they just assumed it was John because John`s the bass-player

> John (1984): "On the album, the track was credited to Bowie and Queen but in fact it was essentially Freddie although all contributed..."

My poor French shouldn`t be very believable in this case:), but I do remember I sent it to many people to translate it and the word "essentialy" was the conclusion I took at the end. Perhaps "mainly" would be more likely to have been said by John. Or "basically".

> "...The bass line came from David, it took me a certain time to learn it."

In this quote he also reminisces vividly the experience of having learned the part from David. So I think it`s more definitive

>"But there was also a strong influence from Brian for the middle part."

At first I believed "middle part" was the long bridge. Now that I think of it, that`s not so much a middle part, but a final part. So perhaps John means the normal bridge ("it`s the terror of knowing...pressure on people people on streets"). And that segment does sound a little Brian-esque in the chords imo

> Freddie (1985): "We just kept on at it, and finally got the crux of the song, and then when we knew it was going to do something we still worked on it another day, and then we finished it"

Note that Fred has always been modest about the songs he`s the main aithor of, but were credited to the whole band. He was very diplomatic too referring to `The Miracle` and `Was It All Worth It`, for instance

> Roger (2002): "It was originally called People on Streets, and that was the basis of it, and we took the multi track tapes to New York and I spent all day there with David and mixed it that night. I remember, we were fiddling about and we got the bass line, and then we went for a pizza! And when we got back, we couldn’t remember it, and somebody thought of it…John did, yes."

New facts on the block: the mix was by Rog and David in NY (apparently), and another stage of the bass-line thing, the pizza incident. So, technically, I can draw a timeline this way: David taught John the bass-line, then they went for a pizza and came in and David didn`t remember it but John did. So Roger and the others thought John had just created it since David`s one was "lost in translation", but actually it was the same one David had written before. That`d match the fact John still credited it to Dave.

> Roger (2003): "It was actually called People On Streets at first and then David suddenly rang up and said, "Look, I've got a better title - Under Pressure", and I think, in reflection, it is a better title. Yeah."

New fact: the title came from David (Bowie)

> Brian (1982): "After Under Pressure was done, there were continual disagreements about how it should be put out or if it should even be put out at all. David wanted to redo the entire thing. I had given up by that time because it had gone a long way from what I would have liked to see..."

So, it makes sense with what John commented. Perhaps, in the first stage of songwriting, Brian had a major input (specially in the bridge), but then there was the big set of arguments between David and Freddie about it, and Brian gave up and got off the "ring".

> "There was a compromise; Freddie, David and Mack actually sat down and produced a mix -- under a lot of strain. Roger was also along to keep the peace to some extent, because he and David are friends"

So that`s weird considering the New York theory. Now, perhaps Fred and Mack mixed it in New York, not just Rog and David. Or perhaps the Mack/Freddie mix was at Switzerland and then it was re-produced in the States.

> Brian (1998): "I would say John wrote that (the bass-riff)."

That statement is more based in suposition ("I would say") than actual recollection.

> Brian (2002): "When the backing track was done, David said, ‘Okay, let’s each of us go in the vocal booth and sing how we think the melody should go – just off the tops of our heads – and we’ll compile a vocal out of that.’ And that’s what we did. There was a point where somebody had to take control, and I think it’s fair to say that David took the reins and decided that he wanted to rationalize the lyrics and them say what he felt they should say."

So, in this case, David did took the reigns and organised what they all five had written. But it doesn`t mean he was the main lyricist

> Brian (2003): "John came up with the riff which starts"

The riff/line technicality is a very good point here. But, quite a long part of the line is repeating the riff or transposing it.

> "...we all added in it, I suddenly remember putting the heavy chord stuff"

That confirms John`s comment

> "...and David came up with the idea of us all going one after the other and sing how we think the melody should be, and then we sat down and chose bits of everything."

Confirms his past quote

> "David wrote a set of lyrics, first of all it was called People On Streets but then he changed the title to Under Pressure"

Confirmed fact: the title was Bowie`s. New fact: he did write a set of lyrics. I wonder which ones...

> Peter Hince (2000): "Bowie played a keyboard on Under Pressure"

It isn`t so weird considering that in the last album he had had until then (Scary Monsters) he only played keyboards (not sax or guitar), and played almost all of them in the album.

---------

The thing would be, that, if Fred was the main songwriter (as John stated in that French magazine), then I guess the chord progression of the verse is from him. It doesn`t seem so Freddie-esque at first, but, thinking of it, that I > V > IV > V stuff is not so weird for him. He did some quite similar progressions at the time, for example I > IV > bVI > IV (CLTCL), and Living On My Own has i > VII > v > VII. The I> V > IV > V progression can also be found in Blink 182`s `All The Small Things`.

Anyway, the song elements that we know who we can thank for are:

- Title: David

- Bass-riff: David (for creating it) & John (for remembering it, and of course, playing it)

- Guitar-hook: Unconfirmed

- Piano lick: Unconfirmed

- Chord sequence (verse): Freddie (maybe)

- Chord sequence (bridge): Input from Brian (note the pedal bass), but not neccesarily just him.

- Chord sequence ("interlude"): I`d say Fred, since that would be a good cause of John crediting the track to him (as opposed as if he just had written the verse progression)

- Lyrics (I mean, words): Mainly David, since we do know he wrote a part of them, and rationalised what each person contributed. Similar case as Freddie with `The Miracle`, I suppose.

- Production: Fred, Mack and David, or Roger and David (or a mix of both mixes)

------------

Melody:


That`s the long one. Apparently, according to what David said, it was basically Fred and himself (which would match John`s 1982 quote in a Japanese magazine). And they kind of make sense, so the melody would be this way:

- "Nonsense" singing (5 phrases distribuited during the song): Freddie (which makes sense considering his classic ad-libs on stage, I can`t picture Brian or John writing that)

- The melody behind "pushing down on me...no man ask for", "burns a building down ... puts people on streets" (same 1 phrase): Difficult to assure, since the first time it`s sung by David, the second by Freddie. So that part could be contributed by some of the other three, maybe

- "terror of knowing ... let me out" (2 phrases, repeated): David.

- "pray tomorrow takes me higher" (1 phrase, paraphrased later) - Freddie. No surprise, note that he evolved it the second time compared to the first, and the second has an ascending "trying higher notes and then nailing a climax" feature (remember the harmonies of Bo Rhap before the solo, or We Are The Champions before the chorus).

- "pressure on people, people on streets" (1 phrase): David

- "chippin` around ... pours" (1 phrase): Fred. You can totally tell it`s a throwaway

- "turn away ... blind man" (1 phrase, repeated): They both sing it, so who knows. Maybe that`s another group part

- "coming up with love ... torn" (1 phrase): David.

- "why...yyyyyy" (2 phrase): Fred. Check the ascending feature above

- "insanity...breaking" (1 phrase): David

- "why can`t give love...chance" (1 phrase, repeated): Fred

- "give love give love..." (1 phrase, repeated and transposed): Fred

- "love`s such and old fashioned word" (1 phrase): David

- final part of the `interlude` (about two phrases, with repetitions/alterations): David. And it makes sense since a similar part is done by him in the second verse as backing vocal. And that`d also go with the "sung by the creator" rule

Total: David (8), Freddie (11), unknown (2). Quite a long and un-repetitive melody for an 80s single anyway. While Fred wrote more parts (according to this count), David wrote more actual melodies, while Fred was mostly ad-libs.
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